Tahlequah Daily Press

Get the scoop!

March 11, 2013

Golden woman hangs upside down, pours wine at wild Napa auction

"We're trending above Nascar and the Oscars on twitter," crows auctioneer Fritz Hatton, as he opens the 17th Premiere Napa Valley trade barrel auction with sharp bangs of his gavel.

Everyone cheers, primed to bid big on cabernet after a week of wooing by vintners at tastings and parties. The wildest event was Raymond Vineyards' "Napa Gras," where a woman in long black gloves and abbreviated gold body suit poured wine while hanging upside down.

Napa's annual February event serves as a barometer of demand for expensive Napa cabs.

The 211 one-of-a-kind, not-yet-bottled cuvees offered in five, 10, or 20-case lots represent each winery's best of the best. Most are cabernets from the 2011 vintage, so the pre- auction tastings provide a gauge to the year's overall quality and an opportunity to scout out the valley's hot new names.

The big room at the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena is crowded with rowdy retailers, restaurateurs, importers, distributors and media from 39 states and nine countries.

Ichizo Nakagawa, owner of Tokyo's Nakagawa Wine Co. Ltd., which specializes in California wine, is sporting a bright orange jacket and shirt with a wild striped tie and a golfer's tan.

His son Sei, a former bond trader who is now company president, keeps an eye on the spreadsheet open on his white laptop and the auction catalog.

Nakagawa used to design golf courses and run the family lumber business, sampled his first California wine in the 1970s, and started his wine business in 1985.

"Once I tasted Ridge Vineyards cabernet I stopped drinking Chateau Latour," Nakagawa says, as his son translates. "I perceived huge potential for California wine in the Japanese market. It's a useful tool for networking. You can drink it without food."

Immortalized at home as a California wine expert in the influential Japanese wine manga series "Drops of God" (Kami no Shizuku), Nakagawa is equally famous in Napa.

His winning $125,000 bid in 2011 for five cases of 2009 Scarecrow, the highest ever bid at Premiere, drew a standing ovation and a flood of emails from buyers. That's $2,083 a bottle, more than a 2009 Chateau Lafite costs today.

"High-end Japanese people want rare California wines they can't purchase easily," he says.

So do Americans. Robert Trone, co-owner of Total Wine & More, an independent wine retailer with 89 superstores, paid $75,000 for the most expensive lot, 10 cases of the luscious 2011 "We Will Rock You" cabernet blend from Bevan Cellars and Chateau Boswell Winery. He also splashed out $50,000 for five cases ($833 a bottle) of tannic, powerful 2011 Shafer Sunspot Vineyard cabernet, produced from the tiny parcel of land that also provides the heart of their cult cab Hillside Select.

"It's for a good cause," Trone says, with a grin. Auction proceeds help fund the Napa Valley Vintners association.

Nakagawa is more cautious. "This year is complicated," he says. "2011 is not the greatest year. 2012 is better." Still, he bought five cases of plush 2011 Revana Family Vineyard Premier Cuvee cabernet (one of my top wines) for $15,000 and another five of spicy 2011 Lewis Cellars cabernet for $26,000, among other lots.

Like most auction buyers here, Nakagawa has commissions from customers for specific lots; the rest of his purchases will fatten his inventory.

I was more impressed than I expected with the 2011 vintage, a year vintners spin as "challenging," due to heavy rains right before harvest. Winemakers who picked early or managed to prevent mildew and rot, made delicious wines that have lovely, juicy fruit, bright acidity, and aren't buried under the high alcohol that often plagues Napa cabs. On the other hand, many wineries failed to get it right.

My top picks among these 2011s include the complex earth- and-cherry 2011 Corison Winery Premiere Reserve; the bright, rich, cassis-flecked 2011 Kapcsandy Family Winery cabernet; a dark, intense 2011 Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery cabernet; silky-textured 2011 Notre Vin winery's "One Hundred Vines" cabernet; and the concentrated, plummy 2011 Continuum Estate cab blend.

I also made some new impressive discoveries: the supple, elegant 2011 St. Helena Winery cabernet sauvignon, just its second vintage; a pure, violet-scented 2011 Detert Family Vineyards cabernet franc, made from 60-year-old vines; and the ripe, opulent 2011 Patel Tourmaline Vineyard cabernet.

Tracking down Premiere wines outside the auction used to be tough, though now the Napa Valley Vintners posts on its website the names of the winning bidders for each lot. Now may be a good time to contact them if you want to buy before the Dow climbs any higher.

 

1
Text Only
Get the scoop!
  • mama.jpg What we get wrong about millennials living at home

    If the media is to be believed, America is facing a major crisis. "Kids," some age 25, 26, or even 30 years old, are living out of their childhood bedrooms and basements at alarmingly high numbers. The hand-wringing overlooks one problem: It's all overblown.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Wal-Mart to cut prices more aggressively in back-to-school push

    Wal-Mart Stores plans to cut prices more aggressively during this year's back-to-school season and will add inventory to its online store as the chain battles retailers for student spending.

    July 22, 2014

  • An oncologist uses scorpion venom to locate cancer cells

    Olson, a pediatric oncologist and research scientist in Seattle, has developed a compound he calls Tumor Paint. When injected into a cancer patient, it seems to light up all the malignant cells so surgeons can easily locate and excise them.

    July 22, 2014

  • Hospitals let patients schedule ER visits

    Three times within a week, 34-year-old Michael Granillo went to the emergency room at Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles because of intense back pain. Each time, Granillo, who didn't have insurance, stayed for less than an hour before leaving without being seen by a doctor.

    July 21, 2014

  • Starved Pennsylvania 7-year-old weighed only 25 pounds

    A 7-year-old Pennsylvania boy authorities described as being so underweight he looked like a human skeleton has been released from the hospital.

    July 21, 2014

  • Sparring justices find little disagreement at the opera

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg revealed a different view of U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday when she described about her passion for opera, one she shares with Justice Antonin Scalia.

    July 21, 2014

  • Malaysians wonder 'Why us?' after second loss of airline jet

    It was all too familiar. Grieving families rushing to airport. The flashing television graphics of a plane's last radar appearance. The uncomfortable officials before a heavy thicket of microphones.
    For many Malaysians, the disappearance of Flight 370 in March has been a long trauma from which the nation has not yet recovered.

    July 18, 2014

  • Your chocolate addiction is only going to get more expensive

    For nearly two years, cocoa prices have been on the rise. Finally, that's affecting the price you pay for a bar of chocolate - and there's reason to believe it's only the beginning.

    July 18, 2014

  • A quarter of the world's most educated people live in the 100 largest cities

    College graduates are increasingly sorting themselves into high-cost, high-amenity cities such as Washington, New York, Boston and San Francisco, a phenomenon that threatens to segregate us across the country by education.

    July 18, 2014

  • The terrible history of passenger planes getting shot out of the sky

    What is more clear is that, if initial reports are true, this would be the deadliest incident of a civilian passenger plane being shot down in modern memory. In some instances, the causes of the disaster are still shrouded in mystery. Here are some of the worst events.

    July 17, 2014

  • Facebook tests button to let people shop from its website

    Members on desktop computers or mobile devices can click a "buy" button to make purchases through advertisements or other posts on the world's largest social network, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Thursday in a blog post.

    July 17, 2014

  • 130408_NT_BEA_good kids We're raising a generation of timid kids

    A week ago, a woman was charged with leaving her child in the car while she went into a store. Her 11-year-old child. This week, a woman was arrested for allowing her 9-year-old daughter to go to the park alone. Which raises just one question: America, what the heck is wrong with you?

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • web_starbucks-cof_big_ce.jpg Starbucks sees more Apple-like stores after Colombia debut

    This week Starbucks opened its first location in Colombia — a 2,700-square-foot store with a heated patio, concrete columns, mirrors on the ceiling and walls of colorful plants.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 2.12.33 PM.png Gunshots narrowly miss TV reporter

    A reporter for a West Virginia television station narrowly escaped injury or worse Monday while covering a fatal weekend shooting in Beckley.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20110929_bowling.jpg Why fewer people go bowling

    Like other industries facing tough economic times, America's bowling centers are trying to reinvent themselves.

    July 15, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

Do you believe school administrators and college presidents in Oklahoma are paid too much?

Strongly agree.
Somewhat agree.
Somewhat disagree.
Strongly disagree.
Undecided.
     View Results
Tahlequah Daily Press Twitter
Follow us on twitter
AP Video
Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment
Stocks